I still get those butterflies when I wake up on a match day. I remember going to my first ever game about twenty years ago and being gripped with anticipation and excitement. That feeling has never changed as I’ve grown older.
This past Sunday morning was no different, even though I was many miles away from home in the picturesque northern city of York. My girlfriend and I were visiting friends for the weekend, but I had made plans to get back to Liverpool in time for the Everton game at Sunday lunchtime.
So we set off early doors and I met my dad in Liverpool for 1pm, just half an hour before kick-off. Usually, we head to the ground earlier and meet some friends at a pub North of Goodison Park. But we were dropped off near Anfield and walked through Stanley Park (that separates Anfield and Goodison; click here for an aerial view) towards the blue side of the divide.
Those familiar sounds and smells greet you as you close in on the stadium; in many respects, they’re the very essence of football. You smell the onions from the burger vans and the scent of salt and vinegar emanating from the chip shop. You hear the heckling of the bloke selling the ‘Golden Goal’ coupons (“better value than Andy Carroll” and “offers bigger than Phil Thompson’s nose” according to him). You make out the cries of street vendors promoting their merchandise (“Hats, scarves and badges!” is a shout synonymous with one seller). Best of all, you hear the steady hum of the match-goers; all chatting and speculating about the ninety minutes ahead.
Those impressions on the senses never get tiresome. They grow on you.
Despite initially looking as though we were going to be running late, we made it into the ground uncharacteristically early; about fifteen minutes before kick-off.
Often, mainly when in the pub before the game, we can get a little too involved in our pre-match chatter before realizing it’s five minutes until kick-off! Plus, getting a drink in the ground is much more hassle and much more expensive than getting one in a nearby boozer.
But we were in early this week, so I got a couple of extortionately priced beers (£3.80/$6.10 a pint!) and talk turned to Everton. It was wholly positive in the main, as a win here would see the team jump five places up the table and into second place. In the same breath, there was a lot of discussion regarding the calibre of the opposition, as Tottenham have also started the season in understatedly impressive fashion.